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February 3, 2016

Can sales be taught?

sales trainingSales is often thought to be an innate skill, something that simply can’t be taught.  Perhaps that is why it hasn’t historically been offered in business programs despite being vital to the success of any enterprise.  Often when sales reps are brought onboard at a company, they’re given a fire hose of information and then it’s sink or swim.  Those that don’t sell quickly are let go, assuming they just didn’t have what it takes.  However, in the modern technology-driven era that we live in, is it possible that sales can be taught and we’re just not approaching it the right way?

Selling is an age-old practice, but the way we sell has changed over time. Today, we often have many choices for products and services, making the sales process even more critical.  According to research from the Chally Group “Business buyers select a vendor more on the skills of a salesperson (39%) than price, quality or service features.”  In addition, sales has evolved to be a much more consultative process, where products and services are adapted around the needs of the customer.  This has created a need for a different approach to the process, where its less about who can best articulate a feature set and more about listening, understanding the customer in depth and providing them with a solution.  According to Harvard Business Review, “A great salesperson today can assess multiple customer needs and motivations, analyze and forecast market trends, use sophisticated automation tools, and develop value-driven solutions in partnership with clients.”  Sure, social skills are important in building relationships but if you’re going to provide a solution in partnership with your customers, you’re going to need to understand their business deeply.

The complexity of the modern sales process along with the incredible pace of change in today’s business world, means not only do we need to teach these skills but also we need to build a culture of continuous learning.  What you learned about a customer and their industry last year, may not be relevant this year.  What your product was capable of even a few months ago may have already changed.  There are multiple moving targets involved in every sale and so preparation has become another key ingredient to success.  In fact, a 2011 Harvard Business Review study showed that successful sales professionals often teach their customers during the process.  “They come to the table with new ideas for their customers that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed.”  In order to teach, you’re going to have to learn.

So not only can sales be taught, it has to be taught.  But it has to be taught in a way that aligns with today’s modern sales techniques and rapid pace of change.  As soon as new information is learned by an organization, it needs to be available to the whole team.  As new tips and tricks show success, they should be disseminated quickly.  It’s impossible to think that each sales rep can retain all the information needed for any possible sales situation, and so having market research, product information, tips and best practices at their fingertips is a must.  That’s why Allego was created, to provide just-in-time learning to the entire team, available on their mobile devices and updated continuously as new content and insights become available.  While it is true, not everyone is fit for sales, its clear that a lot more of us can be successful in sales if armed with the right training and tools.

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